Teenage Girls: Uninterested in Politics?

In the past few weeks leading up to election day, I’ve found it impossible to turn on the T.V. and not find myself face to face with an incredibly unflattering photo of a political candidate, with a voice over telling me how evil this person I’ve never heard of before is, and if I elect them (not that I can vote, but whatever), an angel will lose it’s wings/a million puppies will die/every kid in America will find out Santa doesn’t exist. Especially when I've had a really crappy day and all I want to do is sing along to Glee, these commercials seem to really be enough to make anybody want to tune out of the political sphere altogether. And apparently, that’s exactly what teenage girls across the country are doing.

After the 2008 elections, America seemed reinvigorated by politics again. “Yes We Can!” we cheered. Heck, even those who didn’t vote for Obama felt pretty proud of the political vigor and achievements our country displayed for most of 2008 (Um, whuddup Hillary?!). And this was reflected in the 2008 enrollment numbers of Running Start an organization that through specialized programming gets teen girls involved in politics. In 2008, Running Start received 30,000 applications for 50 spaces in its 2009 program; Running Start’s 2010 program, on the other hand, received a paltry 1,000 applications. What’s more, a recent Harvard Survey (October 2010) revealed that only 27% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 said they’d definitely vote in midterm elections (with even less young women saying they would when the numbers were broken down by gender).

These findings are disturbing for many reasons, but the one that strikes me the most is the disinterest amongst teen girls despite the prevalence of women in the 2010 Midterm Elections. In this past election cycle, 298 women filed to run for Congress, more than half won their primaries, and yesterday 153 women appeared on ballots nationwide in general election for US congressional races. How can teenage girls face what at first seems like a political triumph for American women and feel ambivalence? Meagan Carberry of Rock The Vote agrees with me on the commercial front, stating, “The partisan bickering has definitely gotten to young voters,” plus, she said, younger voters just aren’t targeted enough.

But what’s the solution to this troubling new trend? Some say that we need to actively try to involve girls in politics much earlier, considering that of the last 19 presidents, 12 began their political career before they were 35. And the facts remain that currently women compose only 17% of Congress and 23% of State Legislatures – clearly, no where near equality.

So my question to you is this: why are you – or let’s be honest – why aren’t you as a teenage girl (or boy) interested in politics? Do you see this as problematic? What do you think should be done to involve more girls in politics? Should we just screw it all and switch on over to anarchy?

Here's some further reading on recent political current events involving women (BECAUSE IT'S IMPORTANT TO BE INFORMED. IT REALLY IS):

The White House Project (another organization for women in politics, especially young girls) and my interview with Marie C. Wilson, its founder/President.

Election 2010: Scorecard for Women Candidates - Rutgers

Five Myths About Female Candidates – Feministing

Brazil President and Gender Equality - BBC

More articles by Category: Feminism, Girls, Media, Politics
More articles by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Reproductive rights, Women's history, Elections, High school



Julie Zeilinger
Founding Editor of The WMC FBomb
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